Van Zyl, L. (2009). Accidental rightness. Philosophia, 39, 91-104.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2087
In this paper I argue that the disagreement between modern moral philosophers and (some) virtue ethicists about whether motive affects rightness is a result of conceptual disagreement, and that when they develop a theory of ‘right action,’ the two parties respond to two very different questions. Whereas virtue ethicists tend to use ‘right’ as interchangeable with ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’ and as implying moral praise, modern moral philosophers use it as roughly equivalent to ‘in accordance with moral obligation.’ One implication of this is that the possibility of an act being right by accident does not pose a problem for consequentialism or deontology. A further implication is that it reveals a shortcoming in virtue ethics, namely that it does not—yet needs to—present an account of moral obligation.
This is an author's accepted version of an article published in the journal: Philosophia. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008. The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com.